Fan the Flame – Part 1

Friday, December 13th, 2019

Confidence.  It’s near and dear to my heart these days.  Confidence is defined as a feeling of trust in one’s abilities, qualities and judgments.

I was reminded recently as to the importance of confidence and being proactive in my own life to grasp more of it (more on that in the next blog post).

Confidence is stripped from women (along with dignity and honor to name a few) when they are betrayed.

I have worked with women for more than a decade now and while there are some things I expect to hear that are right under the surface – the level of grief, trying to understand the why behind his addiction (or sexual integrity issue), grappling with trust and forgiveness (the list goes on) – there are other deeper and more insidious effects that sometimes we don’t think about at first blush.  I believe these deeper effects can really rattle our self-confidence.

Unaddressed Shame –

Early on in our recovery – we spent a lot of time focusing on the shame that Jason experienced, starting in childhood, that eventually became triggers that led him to choose to act out.

I as well was dealing with shame – and my shame had layers.  There was the shame of coming to terms with the fact that I married a man with sexual integrity issues.  The shame of this being my story.  This caused me to hide and not want to share my ugly truth with anyone.

I also experienced shame because I really thought Jason only had eyes for me.  And he was the first boy that I finally felt chosen by.  Grappling with the fact that he chose me and many others caused me to feel unloveable and worthless.

The layers of shame look different for each of us.  Sure, it almost always surfaces because of his choices.  But it also can come up as women try to figure out if she should stay married to him.  There can be shame in choosing to stay with someone that treated us this way – and even more so if he isn’t doing good recovery work.  “Am I this pathetic to stay with him after all he has done and he is still treating me this way?”

Confidence wanes as the shame layers start to mount.

Financially Stuck-

While this wasn’t so much the case for myself (we didn’t have children yet and I was the bread winner) – this is a massive issue for most of the women I support.

Working recovery is oftentimes a financial hardship. I remember stressing over how we would pay for the therapist that we were seeing twice a week.

Women affected by betrayal already feel powerless.  If finances are tight – it limits the choices available and can cause her to feel even more stuck and powerless.

In addition, most women that reach out to me have sacrificed their careers in the name of their families.  Some women could go back to their careers but have young children at home which makes the choice feel really hard.  Others have been away from their careers for decades and would have to do loads of training to return to their professions of choice.  It’s a hard call to make.

Feeling stuck from a financial standpoint can have massive effects on self-confidence.  When we have agency – we have confidence.  But without that agency – confidence can plummet.

Intuition Violations –

I know for myself – deep down I knew something wasn’t quite right when I was dating Jason.  This persisted on our wedding day.  I loved him, I knew I wanted to spend my life with him.  But something deep down didn’t feel right.  Ladies – our intuition doesn’t lead us astray.

During the first 3 years of our marriage – I continued to dismiss my intuition.  I continued to experience an unsettled and nagging feeling that something was amiss.  In order to stay sane – I either had to trust my gut and insist something was off or I had to divorce my gut to keep the peace between he and I.  I chose the latter.

Once the ugly truth fully came out – my confidence in trusting my own judgement was completely shattered.  How could I have done this to myself?  How could I have married someone that would treat me this way?  How did I not know?

My self-confidence crashed to an all time low.

Ladies – it’s not all bad news, though.  Why, you ask? (I’m so glad you did!)  Because I truly believe that each of us can walk through betrayal and toward our future with more confidence than we ever thought was possible.  As Maya Angelou said – “Nothing can dim the light that shines from within.”  As I think about this quote – with all due respect – I’d like to revise it.  The light might dim, for a season, but ladies – it will never go out.  We must fan the flame.

I’m curious if you can relate to any of these three areas that affect our confidence post betrayal.  I’d also love to hear what else comes to mind for you that has made an impact on trusting yourself.

Stay tuned for some strategies to help us start to rebuild the confidence we so desperately need to repair.  While this might be life work – I do think if we are intentional – we can make huge strides in this area rather quickly.

Love you ladies!

xo – Shelley

Photo credits here and here

18 thoughts on “Fan the Flame – Part 1

  1. Laurie

    December 14, 2019  |  01:00 pm

    Shelley,
    Once again, this post touched my heart at every level.
    All three of the areas you discussed I can relate to. The one that really hit my confidence was the intuition violation. I always thought of myself as a smart and aware woman so when the betrayal hit I was dumbfounded. I knew something wasn’t right for awhile but ignored my “gut”. This is the one thing I am really working on is trusting my gut. I have had to do this since his disclosure was a trickle disclosure. So many times my gut told me…”there is more” and I was right every time. I won’t be ignoring my “gut” ever again.
    Thank you for this post and I look forward to your strategies to help us rebuild our confidence.


    • Shelley Martinkus

      December 16, 2019  |  09:37 am

      I hear you Laurie! Yes – I hear so often exactly what you are saying – ignoring our gut when we know deep down something is still amiss. I as appreciate you going first and responding to this post. I truly believe it helps others step up and share. I’m excited to share some of the strategies I have been using – I hope the are helpful. xo – Shelley


  2. Denise Caldwell

    December 14, 2019  |  02:16 pm

    You hit the nail on the head when you mentioned the shame of realizing you married a man with sexual addiction, (like…what kind of blind fool am I ???), compounded with the shame/embarrassment that you actually commit to work with said sex addict over and over and over and over and over again. It’s downright humiliating. Like…am I just a glutton for punishment, or am I so committed to the covenant of marriage (and the deleterious effects on family should it break) that I’ll do anything to save the marriage, including signing myself up for what feels like never-ending hell and shame, peppered with cycles of hope and disappointment ?

    Today I’m not happy, don’t feel like a clown
    Don’t even feel like sticking around
    Feeling so tired of this endless struggle
    To my bed I should dive into and snuggle!

    But alas, life goes on, can’t sit and whine,
    There’s always a ray of sunshine somewhere to find,
    The fight may be worth it, who’s to say…
    But hear me cry “Calgon take me away!”


    • Shelley Martinkus

      December 16, 2019  |  09:39 am

      Oh Denise – I just love you so! I had no idea that you were a poet! It’s good! And I hear you – realizing we married a man with integrity issues and then staying and fighting for the marriage can really cause the confidence to crumble. You said it better than I did and I know the ladies that read this will SO relate! xo – Shelley


  3. Joy

    December 15, 2019  |  06:50 am

    Can’t wait to see the strategies you have for rebuilding confidence in our intuition and identities! My therapist recommended two books on that subject: “Blink” by Malcolm Gladwell, and “The Gift of Fear” by Gavin de Becker. The financial struggle is real, too – especially with children in the picture. Would love to sometime hear your thoughts on options for betrayed women in that arena …..

    Thanks so much for all you share with us!!


    • Shelley Martinkus

      December 16, 2019  |  09:41 am

      Thanks for the book recommendations – I haven’t read either of them. (On a side note – I haven’t read many books this year, maybe the least read year in the last decade! However, I am currently enjoying good old “Anne of Green Gables”. The perfect wintertime read! I’m looking forward to sharing my strategies with you and hope you will add to what I put out there. xo – Shelley


  4. Deb

    December 15, 2019  |  09:44 am

    Thanks Shelly; like Lauri, I was blindsided even though I knew something was terribly wrong. And I also dealt with the “trickle” disclosure. Everytime he swore he told me everything, something big came out and I was hit again. Like Denise I question trying to save my marriage but at what cost to me. My confidence in myself and my intuition is at an all time low and because of him it was never high to begin with. I look forward to hearing about strategies to rebuild confidence.


    • Shelley Martinkus

      December 16, 2019  |  09:43 am

      Thank you Deb for your bravery in sharing here! It means so much to me to hear from some of my readers. And yet – I am also so so sorry that you are currently living out the realities that come along with being married to a man with sexual integrity issues. The effects are sometimes too much. I believe you will get there. We all will. xo – Shelley


  5. Amanda H

    December 19, 2019  |  06:58 am

    Woa. Woa. Woa. I literally emailed you for the first time 30 min before reading this. THIS is what I am struggling with. The shame of loving a man who is a stranger and the shame of being THAT “weak” woman. I’ve always believed I was confident and strong. The betrayal has shattered everything that I thought I was.

    The shame is consuming. I feel the need to explain myself EVERY SINGLE TIME I talk about staying with my husband or sharing my story. I feel the need to explain our entire marriage bc otherwise me staying (for now) just doesn’t make sense.

    Thank you. Big revelation for me today.


    • Shelley Martinkus

      December 19, 2019  |  09:35 pm

      I hear you Amanda. The shame has so many layers. Thank you for sharing your heart here. Countless women will be able to relate and your words will help them feel less alone. xo – Shelley


  6. Cindy

    December 20, 2019  |  04:29 pm

    “During the first 3 years of our marriage – I continued to dismiss my intuition. I continued to experience an unsettled and nagging feeling that something was amiss. In order to stay sane – I either had to trust my gut and insist something was off or I had to divorce my gut to keep the peace between he and I. I chose the latter.”

    If I had simply listened to my gut, I would never have stayed married for almost twenty years, to someone who lived a double life the whole time. I also would not have four amazing children or the spiritual maturity that came through long suffering. Shelley, YOU gave me permission to TRUST the holy spirit’s “gut” checks. I no longer need evidence, and when I just trust that feeling, Jesus comes around in His own time and reveals with proof what he told my heart months or years prior. Even though my ex chose his brokenness over our family, Jesus still reveals truths so that I can be pulled out of darkness and confusion. How amazing is that!? I will never again doubt that feeling-you jump-started that!! Such a critical thing for women to feel empowered to do. Let my yes be yes and my no be no, and my “I know what I know” be so.


    • Shelley Martinkus

      December 21, 2019  |  11:15 am

      Oh Cindy – I love the last line you penned! I’ve never heard that before!!! I also love how you said that you no longer need evidence. And finally – I love that you see the good that has come out of the brokenness. Now that is redemption. xo – Shelley


  7. Samantha

    December 21, 2019  |  08:18 am

    The shame of staying. Staying with someone who cheated on me not once, not twice, but five times! Over the years I can look back and see the different reasons I stayed. They all vary from children, to finances, lack of education and career, to faith. Woven through all of them I see God. Hold me down by my head as I sit in this chair. Fighting to get up, wanting to get up and leave. But for one reason or another He has makes me sit and wait. Now my kids are grown-ish. I have a job, the ability to provide for myself if need be. I believe I have honored my commitment to my marriage covenant. Why do I stay now? I think now it’s about being obedient to what I think God is telling me to do, without kids or money or any other reason. But the shame…it’s overwhelming. My daughter is old enough now to question and judge. Even if her judgements are misguided by her age and lack of life experience. It still hurts. Why endure this shame for someone who did so much to me? I don’t do it for him anymore. I don’t do it for my kids or even myself. I do it in obedience to my Father. I don’t know why I’m still here, why He still has me here. But I will stay until He gives me permission to leave. The Bible says, no one who trusts in the Lord is ever put to shame. I will work everyday to trust in the Lord.


    • Shelley Martinkus

      December 21, 2019  |  11:11 am

      Samantha – thank you for your thoughts. So vulnerable, so real. Thank you, thank you. I can’t think of a better reason to stay put. And I also know that to the outside world – it might seem like there is no good reason – but within yourself – He is doing such an amazing work. You hold tight to what you feel He is telling you to do. xo – Shelley


  8. Samantha

    December 21, 2019  |  10:00 am

    Yes, to all of this. I hear you Amanda.


  9. Julie

    December 23, 2019  |  06:37 am

    I can totally relate to dismissing my intuition. It was a horrible internal battle. Gaslighting became the norm as he convinced me my intuition was off due to my depression. When it all came to light that was my biggest loss to grieve. That I trusted someone else more than myself. I had never encountered such a manipulator. Not knowing how evil some people are was a huge shock-and that’s married one is even more shocking.
    I listen to myself now -always! God gave us this instinct for a reason-now it guides me.
    I too am I the financial crisis of it all. I am going through personal bankruptcy. My financial future is anything but stable. I married at 50 to have someone to live the rest of this life with. He ripped away any security of that. He’s got all financial control as we are separated. I suffered an injury 3 years ago after he forced me out of the car and thankfully he’s taken financial responsibility for that -for now. I will never ever the same. It’s horrible to be tied to him but I have no other choice for now and walk a fine line to keep things smooth so he will keep paying.


    • Shelley Martinkus

      December 28, 2019  |  02:10 pm

      Oh Julie – you have been through so much. I am grateful you posted your thoughts here and the fact that you are living and breathing and moving forward says so much. Keep moving forward. xo – Shelley


  10. Mary

    December 31, 2019  |  07:57 am

    I am approaching the third anniversary of our D-day. We are currnetly separated. My husband is currently in his 7th month at a residential facility for his sexual addiction. He is supposed to be coming home in March. But I am still so not ready to be back together with him. All of the topics mentioned hit me square on. I am struggling, still after three years of trying to recover. Perhaps some of the struggle is because after months of counseling, a week of intensive counseling, both of us attending EMB seminars, and much more, he had a major relapse which is what pushed him to the 9 month residential program. I am needing help in so many areas, mostly in the area of trusting myself and my gut. I am trusting God to show me. But at some point I am going to have to make some decisions.


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